Heavy Russian Military Equipment Is Joining The 'Aid Convoy' To Eastern Ukraine
Vladimir Putin's government is sending a convoy of 270 unmarked, white trucks to Russia's border with Ukraine. This supposed "aid convoy" heading towards Ukraine's restive east is now being accompanied by heavy offensive Russian military equipment, according to a number of journalists on the ground.
Helicopters, surface-to-air missile systems, and possible anti-aircraft weapons systems are a few of the heavy weapons joining the convoy.
It's not just white aid lorries that are heading down the highway towards Rostov: military vehicles, too. pic.twitter.com/Z12t8cbx0n- Steve Rosenberg (@BBCSteveR) August 14, 2014
According to The Interpreter, this weapon is possibly a 9K22 Tunguska battery which had been mounted onto a Kamaz truck. Tunguskas are anti-aircraft weapons that can fire both missiles and 30mm guns. They are capable of shooting down low-altitude aircraft, although the gun can also be used against ground troops.
The Tunguska probably isn't the only anti-aircraft weapon traveling with the convoy, as this photo of a currently unidentified weapon system demonstrates:
So two of these babies just pulled up behind the convoy line pic.twitter.com/EVyACn40HQ- Courtney Weaver (@courtneymoscow) August 14, 2014
Russian military helicopters have been flying alongside the convoy as well.
Two helicopters accompanying the convoy, flying extremely low. Now sat in the fields alongside pic.twitter.com/yYTr7Vhp8C- Shaun Walker (@shaunwalker7) August 14, 2014
The Russian convoy has raised a number of red flags, even aside from this heavy compliment of guns and armor. The convoy has failed to abide by conditions put in place by both Ukraine and the
"At the moment it is not an International Red Cross convoy, inasmuch as we haven't had sight of the material, we haven't had certain information regarding the content, and the volume of aid that it contains," ICRC spokesman Ewan Watson told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
The convoy has also veered away from an agreed-upon border crossing under the control of the Ukrainian government, and is instead traveling towards rebel-held east Ukraine.
According to The Interpreter, the convoy is close to the same border crossing that the Russians are believed to have used to transport the Buk missile system which was used to shoot down MH17 in July.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned on Monday that a Russian invasion of Ukraine was a "high probability" and that it would take place under the "guise of a humanitarian operation."
Beyond the military supplies tailing the convoy, Russia still has an estimated 20,000 troops along its border with eastern Ukraine. In total, Russia may have upwards of 45,000 soldiers encircling Ukraine, if Russian soldiers in Crimea and Belarus are taken into account.
According to Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Russian troops massing on the Ukrainian border were "capable of a wide spectrum of military operations." The buildup of troops includes infantry, artillery, and air defenses.
Aside from a possible invasion, Russia may make use of the aid convoy as a way to create armament corridors within eastern Ukraine through which further military supplies could be channeled to pro-Russian separatists.
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